Today, February 2nd, 2013, Groundhog Day, a relatively small, fuzzy rodent named 'Phil' was once again held aloft in the dawn of the Keystone state, and in the adoringly focused gaze of over 30 thousand fans, Punxsutawney Phil predicted the arrival of an early Spring.

PHOTO: Groundhog Club handler Ron Ploucha holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 126th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., Feb. 2, 2012.

"Groundhog Club handler Ron Ploucha holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 126th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., Feb. 2, 2012." 

"Punxsutawney residents aren't worried about Phil's competition.  "We welcome them all. We like the competition," Bill Deeley, president of the Groundhog Club's Inner Circle told The Associated Press."

"Punxsutawney Phil shows off his personality just moments after delivering his good news to the massive crowd that came out to see his annual prognostication by posing playfully atop the top hat of John Griffiths, who is known inside the circle as Phil's co-handler." (Photo by Alan Freed of The Punxsutawney Spirit)

"6:30 a.m. — Right on cue, the lights go down at Gobbler's Knob, and the crowd is treated to a fireworks show by the local Walston Club. The show goes on for some time, with a grand finale worthy of the round of applause it receives.

After the fireworks, the crowd knows it's inside an hour. By 7:30, Phil will emerge from his stump and give his prediction. With that, the ceremonial trek to The Knob by the members of the Inner Circle takes place, and after their introductions, it seems like no time at all passes before Phil chooses the lucky scroll blessing his fans with a promise of warmer weather."

Punxsy, as it's called by its fans, is a small borough in the state of Pennsylvania.  "Punxsutawney" is a Unami word used by Algonquin Lenape people, which appears to mean 'town of the sandflies'.

Jim "Snake" Werhle is the Mayor.  Below is his picture, posted October 29th, 2012, on The Punxsutawney Spirit local newspaper website.,_Pennsylvania

"Punxsy mayor Jim Wehrle has declared a declaration of disaster emergency in the Borough of Punxsutawney effective Monday at 6 p.m. to enable staff and related officials to respond effectively to any possible impact of Hurricane Sandy in the borough."

It's not every day one sees a Mayoral portrait quite like Jim's, and when I first saw it, I was reminded of someone else..

Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddy in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation movies.

On this February 2nd, 2013,
the One Hundred and Twenty Seventh Annual Trek of the
Punxsutawney Groundhog Club at Gobbler’s Knob…

Punxsutawney Phil, the King of the Groundhogs,
Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of Prognosticators,
Weather Prophet without Peer,
was awakened
his borrow at 7:28 am
with a tap of the President’s cane.

Phil and President Deeley conversed in Groundhogese
and Phil directed him to the chosen Prognostication scroll.

The President tapped the chosen scroll and
directed Phil’s Prediction be proclaimed:

My new Knob entrance is a sight to behold
Like my faithful followers, strong and bold

And so ye faithful,
there is no shadow to see
An early Spring for you and me.

There's even a special, fancy ball on the eve of Phil's prediction, along with much pomp and preparation from all his Club members, particularly by those within the Inner Circle.

"Everybody and his brother are coming; all of the houses are filled, and we're expecting anywhere from 40,000 to 45,000 people. There's no way to know for sure, when it is all dependent on the weather," Deeley said.

Bill Deeley is the President of the Punxsutawney Phil Club Inner Circle.

"Emergency personnel will be on the scene, and there will be an emergency medical helicopter available for evacuation if, by chance, the need would arise," he said.

Deeley said all 500 tickets for the Groundhog Banquet are sold out, and this year's main speaker is Danny Rubin, the writer of "Groundhog Day," the movie."

“The Inner Circle has been meeting once or twice a week to address the many issues that come up every year. It has transformed into the family event that we've always wanted it to be."

Phil's Inner Circle is made of men of renown...

A. J. Dereume- Rainmaker

Member Since: 2010

Weather Philosophy: There’s no time like snow time!

If I wasn't working on Groundhog Day activities, I'd be: Celebrating "Groundhog Day Eve"

Bill Deeley - President

Member Since: 1986

Weather Philosophy: Winter is to be cold, & summers are to be warm.

If I wasn't working on Groundhog Day activities, I'd probably be: working.

Favorite Drink: Diet Coke.

Bob Roberts - His Protector

Member Since: 1987

Weather Philosophy: God Bless Global Warming

Butch Philliber - Iceman

Member Since :1988

Weather Philosophy:  The application of science and technology to predict the state of the atmosphere is about as believable as the Government telling you they are here to help you.  [LOL]

Dave Gigliotti - Thunder Conductor

Member Since: 2007 

Weather Philosophy: Live your life! Let the weather do what it may. 

If I wasn’t working on Groundhog Day I’d Probably be: Packing up the family and making the Trek to Gobbler’s Knob to see Phil make his Prognostication. 

Jason Grusky- Big Chill

Member Since: 2011

Weather Philosophy: I would be perfectly happy if Phil never saw another shadow again!  Bring on Spring!

Jeff Grube - Sky Painter

Member Since: 2006

Weather Philosophy: Meteorologist!? We ain't got no meteorologist. We don't need need no meteorologist! I don't have to show you no stinking meteorologist!!

Jeff Lundy - Vice President, Fair Weatherman

Member Since: 1990

Weather Philosophy: Phil says any day above ground, shadow or no shadow, is a good day.

If I wasn't working on Groundhog Day activities, I'd probably be: tracking down and converting those who doubt the all-knowing weather power of the Seer of Seers.

John Griffiths - Co-Handler

Member Since: 1999

Weather Philosophy: Snow is beautiful through a picture window.

If I wasn't working on Groundhog Day activities, I'd probably be: enjoying a thick, luxurious set of hair instead of pulling it out over Groundhog Day.

Favorite Drink: Groundhog Brew.

Ron Ploucha - Stump Warden - Co-Handler

Member Since: 1997

Weather Philosophy: Into each life a little rain must fall (along with some snow and sleet and freezing drizzle) but always remember that the warmth of the sun is right behind the nearest cloud!

Retired Members

Bill Cooper - Past President

Given Name: President & Wind Warden

Member Since: 1986

Weather Philosophy: Don't worry; you can't do a thing about it!

It's almost surreal, the to-do in this town of about six-thousand, and the national appeal, all surrounding the yearly prediction of the weather by a groundhog which is rather rudely awakened early in the morn to perform on demand the business of seeing his shadow or not, and selecting some chosen scroll.

Why is this comical February 2nd pageant such a big deal?

Perhaps because February 2nd marks the general halfway time between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, and has been celebrated in honor for thousands of years as Imbolc, one of the four Gaelic pagan seasonal holidays historically observed in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, along with Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. 

Similar festivals naturally have been historically held at the same seasonal time with the same intention throughout pagan cultures.

File:Imbolc Festival February 3rd 2007.jpg

Imbolc celebration, Feb. 3rd, 2007, in Marsden, West Yorkshire

"Celtic Reconstructionists emphasize historical accuracy.  They base their Imbolc celebrations on traditional lore and historic accounts of the festival.  They usually celebrate the festival when the first stirrings of spring are felt, or on the full moon nearest this.

Many use traditional songs and rites from sources such as The Silver Bough and The Carmina Gadelica. It is a time of honoring the Goddess Brighid, and many of her dedicants choose this time of year for rituals to her."

Bighid ("breed") is a the fertility goddess who had two sisters, also named Brighid, thereby making her a 'triple goddess'..and is also associated with fire, the womb, healing, weather prediction and divination.

Brighid is the same goddess also known as Ishtar, Inanna, Astarte, Ashteroth, Diana...etc. etc. etc., and is often honored by a 'special cross', called "Brighid's Cross".. you may recognize it at a stylized pagan solar cross swastika..

File:Saint Brigid's cross.jpg

"St Brighid crosses, made on the eve of St. Brigid’s Feast (Imbolc) were hung on doors or in the eaves of the roof for protection from fire and mishap. Brighid is known as the goddess of healing, inspiration, creativity, poetry and fire. Imbolc meaning ‘in the belly’ refers to the pregnant ewe, the lambing season when after the long cold winter the green shoots of spring start to appear."

looks a lot like the 'god's eye' crafts we were taught to make in primary school..

February 2nd is also known in the pagan circle as Candlemas Day.. though it is celebrated under the guise by the Catholic Church, which also deems it 'Purification of the Blessed Virgin' and signifies it by ritualistically blessing beeswax candles, then carrying them in procession as they are worshipfully adored by onlookers.

"In its earliest incarnation, Groundhog Day was Imbolc, a pagan celebration associated with fertility and weather divination... When the pagan holidays were transformed into Catholic equivalents, two new holidays emerged from Imbolc.

One, Saint Brigid's Day (a.k.a. Saint Bridget's Day), was celebrated on February 1. Saint Brigid's Day honored an Irish saint, named after the Celtic goddess, who was a contemporary of Saint Patrick's.

The second holiday deriving from Imbolc wa Candlemas Day and was celebrated on February 2 (Groundhog Day). Candlemas was the feast of Mary's purification and was marked by a candle procession.

The ties between purification rituals and the month of February also hark back to the pagan era. Indeed, our very word, "February," which derives from Latin, unmistakably designates the month as a time for purification (februa means "expiatory offerings").

But how did a groundhog become the symbol for a holiday that was marked by a candle procession? Well, the Romans, for instance, had celebrated a rough equivalent to our Groundhog Day in early February -- only a hedgehog was in charge of the weather divination, not a groundhog.

And such beliefs survived the Christianization of Europe (going "underground," if you will), attaching themselves to Candlemas Day as folklore. European settlers in North America kept the pagan tradition alive, but substituted the native groundhog for the European hedgehog."

So, there we have it.. Another seemingly harmless American tradition found to be rooted in pagan Ishtar worship.. Maybe the Easter Egg tie on Mayor Jim 'the Snake' said it all.

"Free Punxsy Phil" t-shirt, anyone?

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